We’re all deeply impacted each time another person goes on a rampage hurting innocent people.
Although few of us are directly affected, we all feel for the victims and their families, and we want answers on how this could have happened again, and again.
Yet it does. And just like the wars, injustices, and human suffering that have forever plagued our species, awful things will keep happening.
The only choice each of us has is what we do about it.
Protect Yourself From Terror
I received many emails on this article I wrote after the terrorist ran down innocent people in a U-Haul close to my home.
That article is about choosing your thoughts to protect your mind from terror, and last week I got more questions about it.
A client said, “But I can’t just tune out these awful things, this really happened.” He’s right, and that’s not my point.
My point is that our brains are addicted to emotional spikes and we’re naturally drawn into such events, which means that we can find ourselves stuck fixating on the worst of the world.
But just because it happens in the world doesn’t mean that we have to turn it into our world.
There’s a fine line between being informed and caring for others, relative to getting our minds sucked into every detail of these situations and making them our “reality.”
What’s The Reality?
As I write this I’m looking into an apartment across the way seeing two little girls sitting around the kitchen table playing a game with their Dad.
Certainly, Dad knows about it, but his reality is that he’s sitting with his little girls. He could make that killer’s reality his, he could even put it on the TV for his little girls to see, or he can keep his mind on what is real in his life, and what he wants it to be.
Tragedies, natural or otherwise, orient our social consciousness towards one horrible event, stealing our attention away from the totality of our world.
If you’re looking for examples of our warmongering, violent behavior, you only need to spend 3 minutes investigating human history. But if you’re looking for how far we’ve come as a species you will see that too.
Last week we could choose to fixate on the worst of humanity or to be dazzled by human awesomeness watching some of us launching off a halfpipe or barreling headfirst down a track of ice.
A friend told me he felt guilty watching the Olympics while others were dealing with tragedy, and that’s my point.
It’s not to say that you choose one or the other, but that every moment we choose what thoughts become our reality.
Focus On What You Can Control
The horrible events of our world remind us of our vulnerability and the lack of control we have in our lives.
None of us “rubberneck” a crash on the highway because we enjoy human suffering, but because it makes us think of our own mortality, and mass shootings do the same.
We’re reminded that there are people out there who might do us harm, we see that our society has no solution to the problem, and we’re left feeling more helpless about what we can’t control.
Truth is, there’s little in our lives that we can control, but we can always control where we put our minds.
This skill of mind “control” might be the hardest skill that we can learn (it certainly is for me), yet when we can pull ourselves out of the emotions that keep us stuck—fear, vulnerability, anger, sadness, etc.—we can more readily seek solutions.
Divided Never Conquers
The gun debate is so emotionally-charged that it’s no debate at all.
Like the left vs. right divide that is breaking this country, when a mass shooting happens, both sides equally dig in. The anti-gun folks are obviously outraged why anyone needs a killing machine, while gun owners suggest that’s exactly why they need them.
And while we’re arguing our side, making each other wrong, we fail to see what’s really going on.
We all want to feel safe. We just have a different way of doing it—people with guns fear that they need to protect themselves and those without guns fear they need protection from them.
But with both sides entrenched in their own position, emotions only escalate, and no progress is made. We don’t resolve these social conflicts with more conflict, or by seeking a solution where one side loses, but by, together, seeking a higher ground.
One of my buddies, a former Goldman partner, deeply cares about the gun problems in this country so he’s invested tons of money and years in doing what he can for the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence.
He’s discovered that the solution certainly isn’t in emotional outcries pushing for unrealistic action, nor is it even in lobbying changes to the law, but in seeking the higher ground on which we all agree, such as working in communities and shutting down bad gun dealers.
Nothing changes until we take control of our emotions and seek workable solutions.
What More Can You Do?
A reason that tragedies are so scary for us is that deep down they strike a sense of helplessness.
A client told me about waking up one night thinking he heard an intruder downstairs. His immediate feeling wasn’t fear for him and his family, but a terrifying sense that there was nothing he could do about it.
There’s lots of things you can learn to take better care of yourself and your family should a bad actor invade your life.
While none of these things may ultimately help you in the worst-case scenario such as an active shooter, just knowing you have some skills helps you feel more safe and secure each and every day.
I won’t discuss this publicly, but if you’re interested in exploring serious empty-hand or weapon-based solutions email us and we can refer you to pros I trust to work with.